PORTLAND, Maine – Sales of vinyl records increased during the pandemic as music lovers expanded their collections, and audio cassettes have also started a comeback, turning business into record stores.
The easing of restrictions on theatrical purchases and continued interest in vinyl records gives stores – and buyers – something to cheer on on Saturday, the first of two Record Store Day dates. Although many stores were closed at the start of the pandemic, people were listening to records at home and increasing vinyl sales online and by curbside.
Will Emanuel, a University of Maine student stuck at his home outside Portland, bought around 50 to 55 albums during the pandemic.
âI was absolutely looking forward to creating a collection,â said Emanuel. “I fell into the rabbit hole and now it looks like I can’t escape.”
At 20, Emanuel is part of a new generation drawn to the warm sound, album covers and retro vibe of vinyl records, joining older Americans who have grown up with the format to increase sales.
Vinyl record sales soared in 2020 during the pandemic year, increasing 29% to $ 626 million and surpassing compacts in terms of revenue, according to the Record Industry Association of America.
Audio cassettes, of all things, are also seeing a resurgence of interest – although they remain a novelty when it comes to overall sales – thanks to help from Hollywood and Netflix.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” featured a groovy mixtape with hits from the 1960s and ’70s that rose to the top of the charts, while Netlfix’s “Stranger Things” featured a mixtape with the Clash and other’ 80s artists.
This renewed interest in records and cassettes bodes well for the annual celebration of independent music stores, those local music centers where people can browse albums, CDs, and tapes and talk about music.
New releases, a feature of Record Store Day, which runs June 12 and July 17, include everything from Black Sabbath to The Blind Boys of Alabama, and Buzzcocks to The Notorious BIG.
Many of these are unique exclusives available only on Record Store Day, making them rare and collectable.
The story of his beginnings begins in Maine, where Chris Brown of Bull Moose Music pioneered the idea in 2007, and was joined by Eric Levin of the Alliance of Independent Music Stores.
A year later, the first Record Store Day was launched.
Retailing today is a lot different from the heyday when teenagers rushed to their local store to flip through 45s records.
Megastores like Virgin and Tower Records are long gone, but around 1,400 record stores are still in operation, said Michael Kurtz, co-founder of Record Store Day. This is an increase from around 1,000 stores when activity hit its lowest point as people turned to digital music, he said.
Record albums and compact discs together account for about $ 1.1 billion in annual sales, a far cry from the $ 10 billion spent on streaming services like Spotify, according to the RIAA.
However, new record stores are opening.
In California, Michael Miller and a friend who have a collection of 5,000 to 6,000 albums each decided to open a store in February during the pandemic at Twentynine Palms, not far from Joshua Tree National Park, which is home to an art scene. and flourishing musical.
“My wife says you want to open a store right away in the desert?” I say of course, why not? Miller said. Sales are exceeding expectations, he said.
Like many independent record stores, Miller’s White Label Vinyl provides a place for people to meet, talk about music, and check out the latest new and used records, as well as other merchandise.
Some people buy new albums, which cost over $ 30 each. Others are more interested in classic records.
John Nyboer, a professional photographer from Los Angeles, said he prefers to buy original tunes from vintage stores for his 2,000-record collection. Lately he’s been exploring old records from Mexico and South America.
âIt’s a really fun way to expose myself to music, to learn more about history, to play the amateur historian,â he said.
Back in Maine, Emanuel preferred the sound and experience of vinyl records to digital music. A listener cannot browse the tracks on an album, he said. Vinyl requires a listener to install.
âIt helps put the emphasis on the music itself,â he said. âYou enjoy an entire album instead of one or two songs. “
Chris P. Thompson, composer and percussionist in New York City, said that was precisely the reason he chose to release his music on record.
âI wanted a format to encourage the listener to invest time,â said Thompson, who produces electronic music. âThere’s more to the experience than flipping through songs on your phone. ”
Article by David Sharp, The Associated Press